Sheffield Steelers falter in league title hunt against struggling Manchester Storm

Sheffield Steelers made what could be a fatal slip in their pursuit of the EIHL, losing a dramatic penalty shoot-out 4-3 at next to bottom Manchester Storm.

By Bob Westerdale
Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 8:36 pm
Keeton Ellerby scrapping with Linden Springer

They took a point from Altrincham, but there's no doubting it's a severe setback in their attempts to catch leaders Belfast Giants.

All seven Sheffield penalty shot takers failed.

Yet Steelers had had the chance to win in regulation time; they were twice ahead.

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Storm were first on the board through Canadian centreman Adam Brady.

After good movement from Frankie Melton and Jared Vanwormer, he beat Rok Stojanovic at 7:33.

At the other end, linemates John Armstrong and Robert Dowd unearthed opportunities, but goalie Jason Bacashihua was in hot form.

Davey Phillips detained on the boards.

Both sets of fans were intrigued by a battle on the boards between Storm's big penalty-taker Linden Springer and Steelers' ex NHL'er Keeton Ellerby, at 13:06.

Springer, alleged to have kicked, was booted out of the game, with Ellerby sitting out for five minutes.

Marco Vallerand made use of the power play to make it 1-1 at 16:40, scoring after first hitting the bar. His PP conspirators Matias Sointu and Robert Dowd were awarded assists.

Sointu went from provider to scorer, still on the power play, at 18:19.

Marco Vallerand at the centre of a Steeler celebration in Manchester.

Manchester had taken a cumulative 36 penalty minutes in the first frame and had to find some composure.

They couldn't convert a Davey Phillips' slashing penalty into an equaliser though and could have leaked further goals from Sointu and Vojtech Polak.

The home side were fortunate when an Evan Mosey shot hit the inside of their post and bounced clear.

A barren middle period set up a rousing third session in which both sides went searching for goals.

The next one fell to Storm. With Antonin Boruta in the penalty box, Melton fired the puck against the post and it ricocheted off Stojanovic.

Dowd's 12th goal in 11 games dragged Sheffield back in front again two minutes later but Storm took the game into overtime when Tyson Fawcett tipped in for 3-3, their third PP goal of the evening.

Storm killed a Curtis Hamilton holding penalty 90 seconds into the fourth session and went on to win the penalty shoot-out, d-man Noah Delmas the only scorer in 14 attempts.

*Saturday's 6-1 win was a significant night over Nottingham Panthers for Vallerand, who ended a seven-game scoreless streak.

Coach Aaron Fox said: "He's had multiple opportunities to score every night since he's been back. He kicked the monkey off his back in that Nottingham game."

He said the drought may "have weighed on him a little bit" but he'd done lots of other things right, defensively and in his physical approach.

"Even when he is not scoring goals he is a huge contributor for us."

Vallerand made the first goal for Antonín Boruta, too.

The other marksmen at the Arena were Dowd, Davey Phillips, Mosey and Jonathan Phillips.